Pythagoras, the guy who invented the hypotenuse, led a cult of brilliant butr sometimes confused mathematicians. They believed that harmonics held the key to understanding how things functioned. At the heart of their work was the study of Ratios, of dividing things into their basic components in search of the secret
of the universe.
According to myth, Pythagoras was stuck on a theory, so he went for a walk to clear his head. He passed a blacksmith's shop and heard five workers inside, all using hammers to bend iron.
As their hammers struck in rhythm, the clang organised into a beautiful sound, with all the hammers singing out in beautiful harmony at once.
He walked into the blacksmith's shop and, with a bluster that would have been fun to watch, took all 5 hammers away from him!
He wanted to study what made their harmony so haunting...it might unlock the secret he was seeking.
Over the following weeks, Pythagoras weighed and measured each hammer. He wanted to understand why they didn't make identical sounds and, more importantly, why they sounded so good when they all clanged at the same time.
His work helped us discover a physical connection between math and the world. It turns out that the ratios in the weights of the first four hammers led to their ringing in harmony—each had a weight that was a multiple of the other. More fascinating to me, though, is that the fifth hammer didn't follow any, data that of the rules of harmony. The fifth hammer was spurious didn't fit, something to be ignored.
Like many researchers throughout time, Pythagoras threw out the fifth hammer (and the pesky mismatch) and published his work only about the first four. But it turns out that the misfit, the fifth hammer was the secret to the entire sound. It worked precisely because it wasn't perfect and p recisely because it added grit and resonance to a system that would have been flaccid without it.
The harmonies of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young often worked best because of Neil Young - because his voice didn't fit.
Young was the fifth hammer.
During CSNY's breakout to in 1974, the core trio travelled together, often by private jet, from gig to gig. Young refused to fly with them, instead leaving immediately after each concert and driving to the next gig in an old mobile home, accompanied only by his son. He was their friction, the wild card, the fifth hammer. The fifth hammer is the one that's not proven, not obvious, or not always encouraged.
The fifth hammer is you, when you choose the practice and trust yourself enough to create.
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